World War II veterans and their families gathered at Lexington's Aviation Museum on Saturday for the city's first "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive Day," which supporters hope may soon be nationally observed.
The public ceremony honoring the veterans was one of more than 150 across the country, said Steve Parker, a retired colonel with the U.S. Air Force who moderated the luncheon.
Aug. 14, 2010, marked the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II.
"I admire you more than you will ever know," Parker told veterans during the ceremony.
Paul Grubbs, a retired clinical pathologist and WWII veteran, spoke about his time aboard the USS Missouri. Grubbs, who grew up in Harlan County, left high school in 1945, at the age of 17, to join the Navy.
Grubbs spoke of several "goose bump" moments he had while serving the country, including sailing through the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time.
Cathy Baker of Lexington said her father was a WWII Army veteran and she has been researching his service because it was something he never discussed. Baker said the ceremony helped "keep his memory alive."
"I'm so glad that the young people are learning about the history," Baker said. "I appreciated this because we need to remember our World War II veterans while they're still with us."
Parker said he thought Lexington's event — sponsored by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and the Bluegrass Military Affairs Coalition — was the only one held in the state.
San Diego held the first "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive Day" last year, Parker said. And a resolution has been passed by both the House and Senate for a national observance day.
About 100 people attended the luncheon, including Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry.
Parker counts WWII veterans who "saved the world and then helped rebuild their country" among his heroes, he said, adding that he wants to see the event get bigger and better.